Over 500 reports of gastrointestinal illness at Sevier County zip line attraction

Jonquil Newland # State

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - The Tennessee Department of Health says it is investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among visitors to a zip line attraction in Sevier County.

Health officials say they have received reports of more than 500 cases of gastrointestinal illnesses including diarrhea and vomiting from people from multiple states who visited CLIMB Works Zipline Canopy Tour since mid-June 2018.

State and local health investigators are working with the company to identify additional cases, what caused the illnesses and keep more people from getting sick.

State health officials say CLIMB Works has taken appropriate steps and closed temporarily, but has resumed routine operations.

The East Tennessee Regional Health Department says it has taken samples of well water, but the tests are not back yet. A manager at CLIMB Works says they're not sure what's causing the illnesses, but they have stopped using and distributing water at the attraction.

CLIMB Works manager Brian Turley says 108 visitors called the business directly to report sickness. He says most of them called, not for a refund, but to inform the business of potential issues.

Turley says they are offering refunds for anyone affected with illness.

Turley shared a message for visitors:

“We are so sorry. We obviously had no idea or we never would have never let you [visitors] drink our water. We had no idea. It’s so frustrating it wasn't something we didn't catch sooner,"
said Turley.

They plan to add filters to their tanks and water coolers on Tuesday. The business says they plan to have swabs taken from its harnesses and countertops to check for anything they might find.

"If we had any part in making your group sick, we would like to do our best to make it right,"
said CLIMB Works on its Facebook page.
"Please contact us directly so we can do our best to help the situation."

Turley also said employees drink the same water and some have become sick, calling it a "high probability" that the illnesses were linked to drinking the well water.

Some of the visitors that saw symptoms believe it started by drinking water.

"We had diarrhea, fatigue, violent vomiting, for probably six to eight hours each. Then it was just very lethargic, couldn't eat anything, take a sip of water,"
said Carlisle Cox, a visitor.

Trough IWasPoisoned.com Cox says he and his son had the same symptoms, and even a week after, are still feeling fatigue.

"We want to know what's wrong with us, some of us are feeling those symptoms and stomach pains. We need to know how to get this treated, what we need to do,"
said Emily Oney, another visitor at CLIMB Works within the last month.

Oney says six out of eight people in their group that attended the ziplining adventure showed symptoms and got sick.

Anyone who has visited CLIMB Works since June 15 and is currently experiencing gastrointestinal illness is asked to contact their health care provider and have stool testing performed.